Newcastle Light Rail

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Newcastle Light Rail
TfNSW L.svg
An eastbound CAF Urbos 100 at Civic stop
An eastbound CAF Urbos 100 at Civic stop
OwnerTransport for NSW
LocaleNewcastle, New South Wales
Transit typeLight rail
Number of lines1
Line numberNLR
Number of stops6
Began operation17 February 2019
Operator(s)Newcastle Transport
CharacterAt-grade street-running
Number of vehicles6 5-module CAF Urbos 100 battery-electric trams
Train length32,966 mm (108 ft 1.9 in)[1]
System length2.7 km (1.7 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC overhead lines in depot, ACR chargers at stops

The Newcastle Light Rail is a light rail system in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, running from Newcastle Interchange through the central business district to Pacific Park. Major construction commenced in September 2017 and the line was opened on 17 February 2019. It is operated by Newcastle Transport for Transport for NSW.



Newcastle first had trams from 1887 until 1950, when the final line, the Waratah line, was replaced by buses. At its peak, the system ran to Speers Point and West Wallsend. It was mostly served by trams of the LP design, rebuilds of the F class trams from Sydney. Only a few, namely 154 and 284 are in preservation, with 154 being operational at the Sydney Tramway Museum. 284 is located at the Newcastle Museum.

Railway line[edit]

For decades the Newcastle railway line had been seen by some as an impediment to the redevelopment of Newcastle's central business district with many proposals for its closure.[2][3]

In December 2012, the Government of New South Wales announced its intention to close the line east of Wickham with the closure of Wickham, Civic and Newcastle stations.[4] The line closed between Hamilton and Newcastle stations on 25 December 2014.[5][6] A permanent terminus, Newcastle Interchange, was constructed adjacent to the former Wickham station, opened on 15 October 2017.

Two options were put forward for the light rail route – reusing the heavy rail corridor or using an on-street route. In May 2014, it was announced a light rail line would be built using a predominantly on-street route. About 500 m (1,640 ft) of the existing rail corridor east of Wickham station was reused, before the light rail proceeds along Scott and Hunter Streets to terminate at Pacific Park in Newcastle East.[7][8][9]

The decision to use a predominantly on-street route drew mixed reactions and led to speculation that the railway corridor could be sold to property developers.[10][11][12] It also went against the advice of Transport for NSW, which supported reusing the heavy rail corridor and advised the government that an on-street route could cost almost $100 million extra and deliver a slower service.[13] In December 2014, the Government announced that Newcastle City Council would have the final say in determining any future development in the former rail corridor.[14]

The replacement of the heavy rail line with light rail has also been controversial. Several newspapers in the Hunter region led a campaign to retain the heavy rail link.[15] Newcastle City Council was initially supportive of the light rail project, but following a mayoral by-election in November 2014 the council advocated retaining the heavy rail line instead.[16]

In August 2015 Transport for NSW put out a tender for a technical advisor to assist in the development of this project.[17] Registrations of interest for companies to design and construct the Newcastle Light Rail were called in January 2016.[18]

In December 2014 it was estimated that construction would commence in late 2015 but by January 2016 the date had slipped to the second half of 2016.[18][19] In April 2016 it was stated that major construction would start in 2017 and be complete in 2019.[20][21] Establishment of a site office commenced in February 2017. Major construction started around the middle of 2017.[22]

A list of stops along the route was released in April 2016. Stops proposed are: Newcastle Interchange, Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street, Market Street and Pacific Park. Each light rail vehicle will carry at least 100 passengers.[23][24] In July 2018 an alternate list of names was published where Market St could be Queens Wharf and Pacific Park could be Newcastle Beach.[25]

In April 2016 CPB Contractors, Downer Group, John Holland, Laing O'Rourke and McConnell Dowell were shortlisted to bid for the contract to build the infrastructure.[26] Downer was awarded the contract in August.[27]

The government announced in April 2017 that the trams would use on board energy storage technology to allow the majority of the line to operate without overhead wires.[28] This differs from the approach used in the wire-free section of Sydney's CBD and South East Light Rail, which powers the trams via a proprietary ground-level power supply technology.

Construction of the light rail was completed by the end of September 2018.[29] A free community open day for the public was held on 17 February 2019 with regular services commencing the next day.[30][31]

Every November, when the Newcastle 500 Supercars Championship event takes place, services terminate at Queens Wharf; this is due to the Newcastle Beach stop being located inside the circuit.[32]


Services are operated by Newcastle Transport.[23][33][34] A depot was built on the site of the former Wickham railway station.[35][36]

Rolling stock[edit]

An Urbos 100 at the Newcastle Interchange

A fleet of six Urbos 100 trams operate the service. The trams consist of five modules and are 33 metres long.[37][38][39][40] The trams were purchased by exercising an option under the rolling stock contract for Sydney's Inner West Light Rail. The Newcastle variant of the vehicles includes technology to enable wire-free operation, onboard surfboard racks and a different livery.[41]


On weekdays, trams operate every 7–8 minutes during and between the peaks, and 15 minutes in the early morning and evening.

On Saturdays, trams operate every 15 minutes from 7am to midnight, and 30 minutes in the early morning.

On Sundays, trams operate every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, and 30 minutes in the early morning and evening.[42]


Newcastle Interchange[edit]

Newcastle Interchange

Newcastle Interchange is a transport interchange situated in the inner suburb of Wickham. It serves as the termini for NSW TrainLink's Central Coast & Newcastle Line and Hunter Line train services, Newcastle Light Rail services and a number of Newcastle Transport bus routes.[43]


Honeysuckle stop

The Honeysuckle stop is located adjacent to Honeysuckle Drive and Hunter street in the inner city suburb of Newcastle West. The new stop provides direct access to TAFE NSW (Hunter Street campus) as well as bus connections[44] located not far from the station on Hunter Street.[45]

Bus connections
Route Number Commences Terminates
10X[46] Newcastle Interchange Charlestown Square
11[47] Customs House, Newcastle Charlestown Square
13[48] Customs House, Newcastle Stockland Glendale


Civic stop

The Civic stop was constructed in front of the former Civic railway station on Hunter Street. The railway station was originally built in 1935 and was serviced by the Newcastle railway line until 2014 when it permanently closed as a railway station. The new light rail stop was built strategically in the geographical heart of Newcastle.[49][50]

Civic light rail stop is located on Hunter Street in the Newcastle CBD providing direct access to a number of inner-city attractions including Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle Museum and Newcastle Civic Park.

Crown Street[edit]

Crown Street stop

The Crown Street stop is located adjacent to the Hunter Street and Crown Street intersection in the Newcastle CBD precinct.[51]

Queens Wharf[edit]

Queens Wharf stop

The Queens Wharf stop is located on Scott Street and provides access to Market Street retail precinct and the Queens Wharf ferry terminal.[52][53][54] It was initially to have been named Market St.

See Queens Wharf for transport connections.

Newcastle Beach[edit]

Newcastle Beach stop

The Newcastle Beach stop is located on the corner of Scott Street and Pacific Street, adjacent to Pacific Park in the inner-city suburb of Newcastle East. Other attractions nearby include the Foreshore Park located on Wharf Road.[55][56] It was initially to have been named Pacific Park.

Potential extensions[edit]

Several options to extend the network were released in April 2016. The options were:[57]

Other proposals made by the community include extensions to John Hunter Hospital, University of Newcastle at Callaghan, Newcastle Airport, Glendale, Merewether and a CBD loop. Transport for NSW stated that these routes suffered from high costs and engineering challenges.[57]

In March 2020 an updated report was released by Transport for NSW on the business case for extension of the line.[58] Media reporting identified that the "most suitable" route for an extension is from Newcastle Interchange to John Hunter Hospital, but that there was "no urgent need" to extend stage one following economic assessments.[59]


  1. ^ Technical details (CAF)
  2. ^ Working group releases Newcastle city rail report ABC News 21 November 2003
  3. ^ Iemma backflips on Newcastle rail decision as Cabinet set to meet ABC News 21 February 2006
  4. ^ The deepest cut...Newcastle's rail line to go ABC News 14 December 2012
  5. ^ "Revitalisation of Newcastle CBD underway with truncation to begin on Boxing Day". Transport for NSW. 3 July 2014. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  6. ^ Tender awarded to design and construct new Wickham interchange Transport for NSW 18 December 2014
  7. ^ Newcastle Light Rail Announced Transport for NSW 23 May 2014
  8. ^ Light rail route for city finally unveiled ABC News 23 May 2014
  9. ^ Map Fairfax Regional
  10. ^ Light rail decision draws mixed reactions Newcastle Herald 23 May 2014
  11. ^ Bielby, Nick (22 October 2014). "Premier Mike Baird refused to rule out development of the Newcastle rail corridor after the truncation of the line at Wickham". The Maitland Mercury.
  12. ^ Nicholls, Nick (17 February 2015). "NSW parliamentary inquiry to examine Newcastle rail line cabinet documents found in disgraced MP's office". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  13. ^ Nicholls, Sean (21 February 2015). "Gladys Berejiklian backed preferred Newcastle light rail route in draft consultation document". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  14. ^ Revitalisation of Newcastle: The People's Project Transport for NSW 4 December 2014
  15. ^ "Help preserve the rail line linking the Hunter to Newcastle". Maitland Mercury. 7 September 2014.
  16. ^ Council switches track on rail plan Newcastle Herald 11 December 2014
  17. ^ Tender released for light rail technical advisor Transport for NSW 4 August 2015
  18. ^ a b "Transforming Newcastle: Call for industry to design and build light rail". Transport for NSW. 21 January 2016.
  19. ^ New era for Newcastle Archived 26 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine Transport for NSW 26 December 2014
  20. ^ "Newcastle Light Rail report and expansion options released". Transport for NSW. 7 April 2016. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016.
  21. ^ Newcastle LightRail Transport for NSW
  22. ^ "Light rail rakes another step to major construction". Transport for NSW. 27 February 2017. Archived from the original on 9 March 2017.
  23. ^ a b Transforming Newcastle: Community to have its say on next steps to revitalise city transport Transport for New South Wales 5 April 2016
  24. ^ Light rail route confirmed as government releases new detail | video The Herald 5 April 2016
  25. ^ Newcastle light rail stops to be named The Herald 12 July 2018
  26. ^ NSW, Transport for (21 April 2017). "Shortlist announced for Managing Contractor of Newcastle Light Rail". Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  27. ^ "Change on track for Newcastle Light Rail". Revitalising Newcastle. Revitalising Newcastle. 9 August 2016.
  28. ^ "Newcastle Light Rail goes wire free". Transport for NSW. 18 April 2017. Archived from the original on 20 April 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  29. ^ Newcastle Light Rail finished by end of the month Transport for NSW 17 September 2018
  30. ^ It's a date – free community open day for Newcastle Light Rail on 17 February Transport for NSW 31 January 2019
  31. ^ Light rail in Newcastle opening from Monday 18 February Transport for NSW 3 February 2019
  32. ^ McKinney, Max (27 October 2019). "Newcastle Transport operator Keolis Downer confirms light rail services will be revved up for Newcastle 500". Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  33. ^ Keolis Downer awarded contract to run light rail, buses and ferries says Baird government Newcastle Herald 12 December 2016
  34. ^ Nedwcastle Light Rail Revitaling Newcastle
  35. ^ Light rail depot on way as end arrives for Wickham station Newcastle Herald 10 May 2017
  36. ^ Wickham station demolition underway ahead of light rail depot Newcastle Herald 26 May 2017
  37. ^ Baird government announces progress on Newcastle light rail Newcastle Herald 21 June 2016
  38. ^ "First half year results 2016" (PDF). Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles. 27 July 2016. p. 3. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  39. ^ "Newcastle Light Rail". Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  40. ^ Newcastle Light Rail Vehicle Unveiled Newcastle Herald 29 March 2017
  41. ^ McKinney, Max (7 September 2018). "First light rail vehicle due to arrive after intercontinental trip". Newcastle Herald.
  42. ^ "Newcastle Light Rail" (PDF).
  43. ^ Newcastle Interchange Transport for NSW
  44. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  45. ^ Honeysuckle Light Rail Transport for NSW
  46. ^ "Newcastle Transport route 10X". Transport for NSW.
  47. ^ "Newcastle Transport route 11". Transport for NSW.
  48. ^ "Newcastle Transport route 13". Transport for NSW.
  49. ^ CARR, MATT (14 June 2018). "Civic Theatre is the first completed Newcastle light rail stop". Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  50. ^ Civic Light Rail Transport for NSW
  51. ^ Crown Street Light Rail Transport for NSW
  52. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  53. ^ Queens Wharf light rail stop NSW Geographical Names Board
  54. ^ Queens Wharf Light Rail Transport for NSW
  55. ^ Newcastle Beach light rail stop NSW Geographical Names Board
  56. ^ Newcastle Beach Light Rail Transport for NSW
  57. ^ a b "Newcastle's public transport future – April 2016". Transport for NSW & UrbanGrowth NSW. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  58. ^ "Newcastle Light Rail Extension Strategic Business Case Summary Report" (PDF). Transport for NSW. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  59. ^ "Plan identifies most suitable route for Newcastle light rail extension". Rail Express. 30 March 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.

External links[edit]

Official operator website

Official project website

Media related to Light rail in Newcastle, New South Wales at Wikimedia Commons